Thursday, September 17, 2009

"As a report about revelation, the Bible itself is a Midrash";
A Conservative Theologian Misreading a Conservative Theologian

"What the Documentary Hypothesis does entail, however, is that, as Heschel said, even the Torah itself is a midrash - that is, a human response to this sense of God in our lives [Heschel, God in Search of Man, p. 185].
Letters to the Editor, Conservative Judaism, 2008

"Rabbi Dorff declares that a contentless-revelation theology find[s] expression in Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel's statement, in God in Search of Man, p. 185, that "the Torah itself is a Midrash;" the "midrash" being the result of the people's promulgation of Torah in response to the contentless revelation of God's "commanding" presence. But on that page of that work Rabbi Heschel writes something quite different, namely, that "as a report about revelation, the Bible itself is a Midrash" (the first emphasis is mine.) This means that what the Torah reports about revelation is midrash, because, as becomes clear in the context, to Rabbi Heschel revelation is so unique and beyond our normal congnition that the Torah has to resort to midrash to talk about revelation."
(Jerome) Yehudah Gellman, “Contentless Revelation – A Reply to Rabbi Elliot Dorff” (same issue)

I also hear the usual refrain, from R. Dorff, of that "sense of wonder" over what is in substance and essence human creativity (quite clearly, in place of wonder at divine activity in Torah; as if to say "Don't look for pause in wonder at the Divine in the Torah - look for it in yourselves"?), the Conservative-esteemed "responses" to the "sense" of God in "our lives". Our lives?...Is he calling midrash something that we could currently respond with, that God in our lives is no different than God in the lives of those at Sinai - at the collective moment ("our"...) of revelation? I know that, in part, it's an attempt to "draw" Jews into Judaism (in an itself, all well and good), by subtly suggesting that it's built by human hands, "but you too can create Torah", because afterall, Torah, the very foundation of Judaism, is itself not only in human hands - it's the "work of human hands".

Midrash, even for those authorities who have ascribed to them human origins - knew full well that their authors were not mere humans, anymore than great works of theology, art, poetry or scientific endeavor are produced by the untutored, untalented and uninformed; Midrashim were (at least), the work of the greatest authorities in our tradition, about or tradition. How can Conservative authorities regard even the finest of human endeavors with such capriciousness?

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